Healing Ways Proves Restoration Comes in Multiple Forms

The program Healing Ways: Decolonizing Our Bodies, Our Minds, Ourselves—a week of art, music, movement, meditation, and words—sought to promote community healing and social change. This was the inaugural year of the program, organized collectively by students and faculty across the 5Cs.

Workshops, lectures, presentations, and performances were open and free to the general public. The ad hoc committee of organizers looked for community health advocates from diverse backgrounds who are involved in intersectional work focusing on indigenous, diasporic, and non-Western healing traditions.

The week began on Sunday, Apr. 3, with an opening ceremony and reception led by Mati Waiya, a Chumash ceremonial leader and executive director of the Wishtoyo Foundation, a non-profit organization that emphasizes environmental awareness and protecting Chumash traditions. Monday brought a meditation workshop at Pomona College's Women’s Union and a Healing Justice panel and theatrical performance at Pitzer. Tuesday saw a dance workshop with Professor Joyce Lu, who specializes in Asian and Asian American performance. 

Poet and performer Kosal Skyped in from Cambodia to talk about deportation and writing to heal. Ki’Amber Thompson PO’ 18 said this intersection of literature and healing “was “particularly powerful.” 

“Kosal's story and poetry was about immigration, incarceration, deportation, healing, and hope. As we were sitting there after the event I looked around and saw the reactions of the people around me and I could tell that everyone was moved and affected by what we had experienced,” she explained. “It was amazing to see how one person's healing narrative could touch the hearts of others and make us think about how people survive and heal through the systematic injustices that they struggle through.”

Wednesday brought hatha yoga, an author talk about indigenous peoples in California, and a workshop with the Asian American Resource Center on healing through service. There was also a talk by Pomona alum Rico Chenyek '11 on healing justice that focused on health politics for marginalized communities.

Thursday offered an ayurvedic cooking workshop and “Writing to Heal,” hosted by the Motley. 

Vanessa Machuca PO ’18, one of the organizers of Healing Ways, said, “Healing is something I’ve denied myself too many times before, dealing with guilt over how I feel and what I’m struggling through—and this is something I’ve seen in my friends and family as well. When I heard that Healing Ways was actually going to happen, I immediately jumped on board. It seemed like an awesome opportunity for definitions of and tools for healing to become part of the dialogue on campus.”

Machuca worked specifically on organizing Thursday's writing workshop.

“For as long as I can remember, writing has been critical in navigating my identity and emotional terrain, in facing what it is that’s bothering me and take steps toward addressing it, and that’s something I’d like to share,” she said. “I don’t have a good sense of how the campus has reacted to Healing Ways, but I hope participants walk away with the motivation to incorporate methods of healing into their own lives.”

The final two days culminated in movement and music workshops as well as a labyrinth installation at the Pomona Farm. Aidan Orly PO ’16, ASPC’s commissioner of environmental affairs, explained, “The labyrinth is part of the farm's goals to become a more multipurpose space where healing and reconnection to land are key. Basically, the farm is trying to bridge the gap that exists too often in mainstream environmentalism, and even in the farm's past, between environmental health and human needs or justice.”

Orly also expressed his views on the connection between Healing Ways and environmental justice. 

“Environmental stuff and Healing Ways are very closely related. Through a greater awareness of how environments are structured and shaped—and by environment, I mean physical and figurative spaces—whether in a national park, in a housing unit in the middle of an urban center, or in the QRC's figurative space, we come to a better understanding of how processes of hurting and healing might exist there,” he said. 

Last week successfully ignited a conversation on the intersectionality of healing with social justice and other movements. Hopefully the dialogue will continue as we find restorative paths as a community. 

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